Pet safety on bonfire night

There's more to keeping your pet safe on bonfire night than leaving him or her at home... Read our guide to find out more.

Remember, remember the fifth of November - for the sake of your pet if not for yourself!

Whether you love the noise and excitement of bonfire night or prefer to stay indoors with the curtains firmly drawn, it's essential to look after your animals at this time of year.

Pets such as cats and dogs tend to be very frightened by the bangs and flashes caused by fireworks and it's possible they could run away and get lost.

And, sadly, animals can be very seriously injured if debris from a firework - or even a firework itself - hits them.

So to make sure your pet stays safe this bonfire night, read on...Cockatoo

When do fireworks go on sale?

Fireworks can be bought from specially licensed shops all year round but are on general sale from registered sellers such as supermarkets and shops only for limited times, including:

  • 15 October-10 November
  • 26-31 December
  • Three days before Diwali and Chinese new year

You must be aged 18 or over to buy fireworks and it's illegal to set them off between 23:00 and 07:00, except on:

  • Bonfire night, when the cut-off point is midnight
  • New year's eve, Diwali and Chinese new year, when the cut off is 01:00

Why is bonfire night so frightening for pets?

Animals have no idea what the loud bangs and colourful flashes are and can become very distressed by anything that is out of the norm or a change in their routine.Rabbits

Moreover, the noise of fireworks can physically hurt them.

Animal hearing is extremely sensitive and, according to the Blue Cross animal charity, loud bangs and whistles can cause actual pain in their ears.

How to look after small animals on bonfire night

On 5 November and during other celebrations, small animals tend to be easier to care for than cats and dogs because they are enclosed in hutches or cages and therefore can't run away.

But pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can nevertheless become very frightened, so here are some ways to help them feel as secure as possible:

  • Bring outdoor hutches into the house or, alternatively, into a shed or garage
  • If this isn't possible, turn the hutch around to face a wall or fence, instead of facing outwards
  • Cover hutches and aviaries with a blanket to muffle loud noises and block out flashes, but make sure there is enough ventilation
  • Provide extra hay or straw for burrowing, as this allows small animals to feel secureDog and cat

How to look after cats and dogs on bonfire night

Dogs and cats need extra attention during the fireworks period as they can be sensitive and could potentially escape if not looked after properly.

  • Never take dogs to a fireworks display, even on a lead
  • Walk dogs during the daytime so they don't need to go out at night
  • If at all possible, don't leave dogs and cats at home alone when fireworks are likely to be going off
  • Make sure cats are shut inside the house by closing windows and locking cat flaps
  • If you do have to go out, don't tie dogs up in the garden or leave them in the car
  • If your pet has made a mess whilst you are out, don't be cross with him or her
  • Blackout blinds can be useful as they muffle sound as well as blocking out the light
  • Make a den out of blankets and boxes, as your pet will feel safer if he or she can 'hide'
  • Put the TV on or play music to distract your dog or cat from the noises outside
  • Stay calm and relaxed - pets sense human emotions and will become even more fretful if they pick up on your anxietiesHorse

How to look after larger animals on bonfire night

It can be tricky to reassure larger animals, such as horses and goats, when fireworks are going off nearby.

But staying calm and following these pointers will help:

  • Fireworks shouldn't be set off close to stables or a paddock, so tell neighbours and display organisers if you keep large animals at your property
  • If you have an animal which is particularly anxious, have a chat with your vet or, if possible, think about moving the animal to a different place for a night
  • If a horse or another large animal bolts, don't try to stop it or get in its way

Ahead of 5 November and other celebratory events such as new year's eve, consider your pet's personality and plan ahead.

You may want to talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers, which emit calming chemicals and can be a good option for stressed pets, especially dogs.

They are best used in conjunction with behavioural therapy, which would require a referral from your vet and would need to be planned three-to-six months ahead of an event like bonfire night.Labrador

Fireworks are widely on sale in the three weeks leading up to 5 November, so be extra vigilant when out walking your dog during this period.

It's illegal to set off fireworks, including sparklers, in the street, but don't assume this won't happen whilst you are out with your pet.

Finally, find out how actor Simon Callow can help your pet on bonfire night!

By Rebecca Lees